Gamma’s childhood home in Wallace Park.
Things We Lost in the Fire is a (2007) film starring Halle Berry and Benicio del Toro. Berry is the mother of two children and wife to her recently deceased husband. Del Toro is the husband’s best friend and a heroin addict. In the story, an electrical fire causes minor damage to the garage. However, the loss is more grave than a small fire. The sudden and tragic death of the husband is the fire. All is gone, lost in the fire.
Gamma remembers losing her things in a fire. She was in fourth grade and lived in Wallace Park. One afternoon, a church friend of her mom’s needed a babysitter. Happy to help, Gamma’s mom agreed to watch the friend’s two children while the friend worked on her college thesis. After loading up the car to go a few short blocks away, Gamma and her family went to help a friend in need.
After a few hours with the friends' kids, Gamma, her mom, and her brother returned home. Usually, her mom parked the station wagon in the driveway. This time, she parked it on the street. The children hopped out of the car and ran up the sidewalk to the front door. Their mom only steps behind. After using the key to unlock the door, Gamma stepped up and pushed it open. The suffocating vapors and intense fumes smacked all of them in the face. The thick, dark smoke was impenetrable. The two-story brick home was on fire.
As the fire trucks arrived, the family stood silently in the street. Gamma thought, ‘All is lost’. Her things like Barbies, clothes, toys, and pictures are all gone. People from the neighborhood started to gather. Gamma helplessly squatted close to the curb with her mom and brother. Nobody moved, not even an inch.
The high-powered firehose forced its fury on top of the roof over the family room. The Fire Marshal determined the cause of the blaze was due to a lightning strike. The best way to describe the scene was shocking. All was gone, lost in the fire.
Sis’ friends from Pre-K
A fire was about to ignite in Gamma's Grand’s world. It was Sunday afternoon. Sis was bored. She started rummaging through random pictures from inside the drawers of the dining room buffet table. Instantly, she recognized one of the photographs. It was a picture of her Pre-K class from last year. She snatched it from the drawer and headed to Gam’s bedroom, a place of refuge in times of trouble. Sis’ bottom lip started to quiver. Her smile turned upside down. Teardrops rolled down her cheeks. Her body slumped over like an old lady with osteoporosis.
Gamma asked what was wrong. At first, Sis wouldn’t say. All she could do was look at the photograph, then at Gamma, then back again. After a minute, Sis shared her sorrow. She missed her friends, the ones she made last year at Pre-K. Sis missed playing on the playground with them. She missed drawing pictures with them. She missed sitting on the carpet watching movies with them. All was gone, lost in the fire.
There have been other losses. Recently, the family lost two pets. Sissy was their dog. She was a kind, gentle, 14-year-old golden retriever mix. The children loved petting her thick, wavy hair. They would pretend Sissy was human and have her wear hats. Bubba put socks on her paws to keep her ‘feet’ warm. It was hard to understand why she was here one day and gone the next. Gamma had scheduled an appointment at the veterinary clinic for her to go to sleep. Sissy had suffered a long illness. It was time. How could Sis and Bubba be saying goodbye if she was still here? Again, with the pouty lip, tear down the face, and bowed head. All was gone, lost in the fire.
Sissy is sick and needs to rest.
Saying ‘good-bye’ is never easy.
The second pet loss came a few months later. Apollo was a rescue cat. He slept in the heated garage but spent his days inside the house. Apollo enjoyed roaming the neighborhood but stayed close to home. The family guessed he was 12 years old. His only health issue was a bad tooth.
Apollo came to live with the family in 2014. Previously, those in his old neighborhood kept him fed, not sheltered. The rescue happened after a cat attack. A concerned neighbor brought Apollo to the veterinary clinic where Sis’ mom worked. Cats in the subdivision had bullied Apollo. He was a lover, not a fighter. After healing, Sis’ mom decided to bring him home. This past summer, he got into poison and died. He was here one day and gone the next. All was gone, lost in the fire.
Apollo’s a lover, not a fighter.
Experiencing grief isn’t easy at any age. Understanding it is a whole different thing. Children have trouble with finality. How could something so loved go away and never come back? Is Sissy in heaven? When will she be back? When will we see her again? When will we see Apollo again? Then, something clicks. Children realize it’s permanent. Sis’ friends from Pre-K aren’t in her class anymore. Things will never be the same. All is gone, lost in the fire.
Sister grabbed the picture out of the drawer.
She looked at it once and then a bit more.
Off to bed to sit and think.
Preschool friends lost in a blink.
Sis wondered why they were gone.
How can it be? Did I do something wrong?
We had so much fun, they were my friends.
Would it ever be the same again?
Gamma’s not sure how to respond.
She watched Sis’ face grow sad and withdrawn.
With one single tear streaming down her face
Gamma knew heartache had taken place.
Sis pointed to friends and made a mental tally
Spotting three of her besties: Jessa, Jason, and Miss Allie.
Her eyes remained fixed on the photo from that day
The camera captured smiles just outside the hallway.
It was time for a hug, Gamma decided
No words were necessary until emotions subsided.
The quiet was comforting; no send or reply
Just the warmth and the ease of a loved one nearby.
They sat quietly for a moment while Sister cried
It’s nice having feelings you don’t have to hide.
The two rocked together more slowly at first
As the swaying continued, the tears dispersed.
After taking the time to grieve with no words,
Gamma asked the question,” Why do you hurt?”
At first, there was silence, then Sister replied.
Sharing thoughts and sentiments she began to confide.
“You remember Jason, my friend at school?
We played on the playground and sat on the stools
In art class, we drew pictures and made things with clay.
I don’t see him anymore he’s a few doors away.”
“Jessa’s my friend. She liked playing with dolls.
We dressed them in clothes and helped them to crawl.
Miss Allie’s the teacher who told me I shined.
She’s the one I’ll remember because she was kind.”
Gam took a deep breath and mulled it all over.
She thought about one thing and then another.
Sis is getting older it will be okay.
To hear the truth about loss today.
“Let’s talk about this,” Gamma said as she waited.
For Sis to agree, talks aren’t over-rated.
Sis peeked through the hair that fell around her face.
Ready to listen and respond in good faith.
Gam asked, “Do you remember about the house fire,
The lightning-sparked meltdown of the electrical wire?”
That day was scary, sad, and just wrong.
Gam wondered if her feelings were lifelong.
A week or two later, Gam received a surprise.
New Barbies, new clothes, and new shoes in her size
Gam liked her new toys and the dresses with pockets.
But it’s hard to forget the old things in her closet.
Gam’s mom said she knew what it's like to lose things.
She lost her dog, Lady, when she was fourteen.
As time passes, the hurt becomes less.
Memories are happy ones, and you’ll feel blessed.
Let’s think about loss like friends in your past.
They’re still at your school, just not in your class.
Friends come and go, animals too
God’s gifts from above, on loan to you.